Shutdown Corner - NFL

Since their season ended with three straight losses and a 7-9 record, the Miami Dolphins have been smart and proactive in redefining their defense. First, they gratefully accepted manna from Heaven when Denver head coach Josh McDaniels went all nutty again and let defensive coordinator Mike Nolan go. The architect of one of the NFL's greatest single-season defensive turnarounds came to Miami just as the Fins knew they would have to improve their defense at several positions. Key among those was at inside linebacker in their 3-4, as general manager Jeff Ireland said at the scouting combine.

We've got some decent (ILBs) on our team. I like our linebacker corps. I would say it's a need of the team, sure. It's one of the needs. You've got some age at the position right now. I've got to get younger there, and I've got to get a better performance on the field. Inside and outside are key positions in free agency and the draft.

Miami has taken care of the inside position in a big way, signing former Arizona Cardinals defender Karlos Dansby(notes) to a five-year, $43 million contract with $22 million guaranteed. Dansby has been franchised by the Cards the last two seasons, but a third tender would have been extremely financially prohibitive. And as they started to rid themselves of several key players, Dansby was out the door, as well.

It's a big hit for Arizona and a great get for the Dolphins. Dansby is a dynamic hitter who can cover exceptionally well for a 3-4 inside guy -- the Cards would even occasionally put him at center field, almost as a really big nickel safety, at times. Now, he'll man the middle with Channing Crowder(notes), leaving Nolan with a potentially dominant inside game. This move also lets the Dolphins address on their need for a franchise-level nose tackle through the draft. The deal is the richest ever for a pure inside linebacker, but with defenses in the AFC East doing everything possible to trump each other, it was a necessary move.

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